Outstanding students, faculty and staff honored at annual York awards program

Famale presents an award to another a student, also female.  Person in Nittany Lion costume between the two.

Under the watchful eye of the Penn State York Nittany Lion, center, Penn State Alumni Association York County Chapter President Lori Houser, left, presents the Penn State Alumni Association (PSSA) York County Chapter Award to Catie A. Noble, a senior at Penn State York. Noble is set to graduate in May with a bachelor of science degree in information sciences and technology.

Credit: Barbara Dennis

YORK, Pa. — Outstanding Penn State York students, faculty and staff were honored on Sunday, April 24, during the Penn State York Awards Program in the Pullo Family Performing Arts Center on campus. This was the first in-person awards ceremony since 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click here to view and download photos from the awards program

The Walker Award

The Eric A. and Josephine S. Walker Award is the most prestigious student award on campus. This award is given annually to a full-time student who exhibits outstanding qualities of character, scholarship, leadership and citizenship. Each Penn State campus selects a recipient of this award. Sweeta Rasiyan, of York, Pennsylvania, is the 2021-22 recipient. Rasiyan is completing her junior year at the York campus and is majoring in psychology with a minor in human development and family studies (HDFS). Rasiyan was recognized for her outstanding leadership and her willingness to help others. She has served as a Lion Ambassador and is a part of the Multicultural Club, the Student Government Association, and the chancellor’s Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She also worked as an orientation leader, took part in Capital Day, and is co-chair for the University Programming Board on campus. In addition, she serves the campus by working in the admissions office and as the student affairs marketing specialist by putting together the “Stall Street Journal” and promotional items on the campus television screens.

Clark E. Fisher Award

The Clark E. Fisher Memorial Award honors and recognizes outstanding achievement in engineering by a full-time undergraduate student. The award is named for the late Clark E. Fisher, a 1983 Penn State engineering graduate. Fisher’s family members, Precision Custom Components (PCC) — Fisher’s former employer, colleagues from PCC, and friends joined together to create an award in remembrance of Fisher. The award is given in the field that Fisher loved, engineering. Christian Reed, of Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, is the recipient.

Excellence in Teaching Award

The James H. Burness Award for Excellence in Teaching is given to one part-time and one full-time member of the Penn State York faculty based on nominations by students and other members of the campus community. The award is named in honor of the late James H. Burness, who died in December 1999, in recognition of his outstanding teaching and service to the campus. This year's recipients are Joan Smeltzer, assistant teaching professor in mathematics, York, Pennsylvania, full-time award, and Audra Weaver, adjunct lecturer in communication arts and sciences, York, Pennsylvania, part-time award.

Joan Smeltzer

Smeltzer was commended for making math fun. One student said, “She is constantly making math fun, and is engaged in our success in and out of the classroom.” Another student said, “Professor Smeltzer always has the student’s best interest at hand. She changes the course around in order to help the students learn better. She is flexible and understanding with the students.”

Another student commented, “Professor Smeltzer has gone out of her way many times to make sure that the students that need help are getting what they need. In my math class there are three veteran students, and I can say for all of us we greatly appreciate the extra help and care she provides to make sure we actually are learning the information to build up for Math 21, not enough to just pass the class. Best professor I have had so far!”

Smeltzer is the adviser for the Rainbow Paws Club on campus.

Audra Weaver

Weaver was praised for being very understanding, kind and caring. Her willingness to do Zoom calls to practice speeches also was noted. One student said, “She genuinely cares about us, as students, and makes sure we understand every aspect of every assignment.” Another student said, “She is engaging, and uses thorough analogies to explain concepts.” 

In addition, a student noted, “She is one of the best professors/teachers I have ever had, I am proud to vote for her. She has been personable in class and helps me be a better student in every class.”

Academic Advising Award

Stephen Foster, of York, Pennsylvania, assistant professor of social psychology, is the winner of the Penn State York Advising Award. The Penn State York Advising Award, given by the campus Academic Advisory Council, was established in 1991 to recognize the importance of advising students. This committee operates separately from the teaching award committee.

Foster joined the York campus in the fall 2020 semester and jumped right into his position with enthusiasm and commitment to student success, despite the unusual circumstances of the pandemic. According to one student, “I am nominating this adviser due to the time, energy, and help I have been given. His efforts in providing the best solution and plan helped me very much. He truly cares about his students.”

Another student said, Dr. Foster is also free to talk and listen about basically anything if it is school related, life related, anything really. He was very very helpful in picking classes and degree planning and only wants what is best for his students. Overall, an amazing professor and adviser.”

Faculty Scholarship and Research Award

The Faculty Scholarship of Research and Creative Accomplishments Award recognizes outstanding achievements in research and/or creative accomplishments within the prior three years in the context of sustained record of scholarship. Jennifer Nesbitt, associate professor of English, is the 2021-22 recipient. 

The committee, as in the past, shared that they faced a difficult decision again this year given the outstanding portfolios provided by nominees. The committee shared, “Dr. Nesbitt is a perfect example of excellence as a teacher-scholar exhibited by so many of our faculty at Penn State York. Her second book, 'Rum Histories: Drinking in Atlantic Literature and Culture' (University of Virginia Press), is the first work of scholarship on this subject and her successful completion of the manuscript during the COVID pandemic is a testament to her dedication to this work. She has also more recently taken on the role of editor to the online journal, The Space Between: Literature and Culture, 1914-1945.”

Academic Achievement

The Academic Achievement Award is given to a student or students in recognition of distinctive academic accomplishments. The award is intended to recognize students who may not have won an award based solely on overall grade-point average but who may have done a special project or otherwise done outstanding academic work in a particular area. Minimum qualifications include second-year standing by the spring semester of the year in which the award is presented, and a 3.5 or higher cumulative GPA. Sarah C. Hughes, ofDover, Pennsylvania, is the recipient.

The Academic Achievement in the Biological Sciences Award is presented to students earning a bachelor of science in biology or science and completing their degree at Penn State York. Students must be in their final two years of study and have demonstrated excellence in course work, independent studies, and/or extracurricular activities related to their field. The award recipient is chosen by the biology faculty. Nicholas Nase, of Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, and Kelsey Ruhlman, of Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, are the recipients.

The Freshman Chemistry Award is presented to a freshman based on outstanding academic achievement in chemistry. Braden Reese De Leon, of York, Pennsylvania, is this year’s recipient.

The Penn State York Campus Honors Program provides challenging opportunities for academically superior students. Those who maintain a 3.3 overall minimum GPA and a 3.2 GPA in their honors courses are recognized for each nine credits of honors work completed. Additionally, students who complete 24 credits of honors work will graduate with honors. Honorees are Roxanne R. Humphris, Red Lion, Pennsylvania; Catie A. Noble, York, Pennsylvania; Amy Bishay, Hanover, Pennsylvania; Justin Lin, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Kaitlin Lin, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Alaina G. Long, Hanover, Pennsylvania; Fatoumatta Sawaneh, York, Pennsylvania; Brittany M. Stump, York, Pennsylvania; Sohaib M. Tariq, York, Pennsylvania; and Garrett Zeigler, York, Pennsylvania.

The Evan Pugh Scholar Award is presented to juniors and seniors who are in the upper 0.5% of their respective classes and have completed at least 48 graded Penn State credits at the end of the fall semester of the academic year the award is given. Candidates are eligible if they have been full-time undergraduate students for at least four semesters prior to selection. Recipients are Logan Z. Coomes, Stewartstown, Pennsylvania; Brynn D. MacDonald, York, Pennsylvania; Hunter Haggett, York, Pennsylvania; and Josh D. Wagner, Red Lion, Pennsylvania.

The President Walker Award is presented to undergraduate students who have earned a 4.00 (A) cumulative grade-point average based on at lease 12 Penn State credits completed during their first semester of admission. Candidates are eligible for this award if they have fewer than 36 Penn State credits earned. During the presidency of Eric A. Walker (1956-70), and with the approval of the Board of Trustees, the number of awards was increased and in 1960, the President’s Freshman Award, as this award was formerly known, was established to recognize high-achieving first-year students.

Recipients are Braden De Mesa De Leon, York, Pennsylvania; Ashley Ruelas-Garcia, York, Pennsylvania; Zachary M. Kemper, Hanover, Pennsylvania; Xiomara N. Larkin, York, Pennsylvania; Kaiden Loder, York, Pennsylvania; Allison Lonkart, Lewisberry, Pennsylvania; Tanner B. Marchant, York, Pennsylvania; Michael Place, Red Lion, Pennsylvania; Dalton B. Schwanke, Hanover, Pennsylvania; and Charles E. Wolfe, Jacobus, Pennsylvania.

The President Sparks Award is presented annually to those undergraduate candidates who have earned a 4.0 (A) cumulative grade-point average based on at least 36 graded Penn State credits completed by the end of the fall semester of the academic year the award is given. The President Sparks Award recipients are Victoria Huynh, York, Pennsylvania, and Justin Lin, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Keystone Honor Society Awards are presented to full- and part-time students with the highest GPA at or above a 3.5 in each associate and baccalaureate degree program offered at the campus. Part-time students are eligible to receive the award one time in their major. There are also requirements for the time in the degree. Honorees are Logan Z. Coomes, Stewartstown, Pennsylvania; Ryan K. Dellinger, York, Pennsylvania; Samantha Di Prizito, Etters, Pennsylvania; Travis J. Ellis, Windsor, Pennsylvania; Hunter Haggett, York, Pennsylvania; Caitlan R. Hevener, Wrightsville, Pennsylvania; Matthew Hirn, York, Pennsylvania; Rebecca A. Mauck, Hellam, Pennsylvania; Jenna Rowe, York, Pennsylvania; Ryan D. Snell, Windsor, Pennsylvania; Noah W. Somers, Hanover, Pennsylvania; Nick A. Trout, Dallastown, Pennsylvania; Steven P. VanderDonk, Windsor, Pennsylvania; and James Ye, York, Pennsylvania.

The Dr. Harriet Darling Award – Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) is presented to an outstanding student who shows commitment to learning and critical thinking, is compassionate, understands issues and opportunities in the lives of children and families, contributes to and advocates for the well-being of others on campus or in the community, and has shown the most improvement through personal growth. Alexis C. Feeser, of York, Pennsylvania, is the award recipient.

The Professor Orsay Kucukemiroglu Business Award is presented to graduating seniors majoring in business who have the highest GPAs in their major. Cole J. Wentz, of Dover, Pennsylvania, is the award recipient.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Student Award is presented to the student who best honors the values of diversity, equity and inclusion as expressed in the campus’ diversity statement: Penn State York is committed to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. We celebrate individual uniqueness and are committed to a culture of inclusion that promotes intergroup dialogue, understanding and respect. A diverse campus community enriches and engages it members and serves as a core component of our educational mission. The recipient will have participated in and promoted diversity, equity and inclusion-related activities on the campus and within the University, as well as in the community-at-large. Students must have a 3.0 GPA or higher. Catie A Noble, of York, Pennsylvania, is the recipient.

The Tutor of the Year Award is presented to the tutor who has made the greatest impact on students who came to the Nittany Success Center for extra help with their course work. Btittany M. Stump, of York, Pennsylvania, is the winner.

The Outstanding Student-Veteran Award is given to a student-veteran demonstrating academic achievement, strength of character, and commitment to service. The award recognizes an extraordinary student-veteran who has overcome challenges in reaching this academic milestone, has been involved on campus or in the local community, and has helped make a positive difference for students. Jared M. Posedenti, of York, Pennsylvania, is the recipient.

The Tau Alpha Pi National Honor Society recognizes high standards of scholarship among associate degree engineering seniors. Campus engineering faculty select the award recipients. Jeff Aiello, York, Pennsylvania; Luke Dircks, Felton, Pennsylvania; and Nathan Earnest, York, Pennsylvania, are this year’s award recipients.

The Edward M. Elias Award is presented to the first- and second-year baccalaureate students moving to a campus within the Penn State system with the highest GPA. Justin Lin, of York, Pennsylvania, and Michael C. Tencariu, of York, Pennsylvania, are the award recipients.

Service Awards

The Student Government Association (SGA) Campus Service Award is given annually to students whose services have benefited the campus. The award recipient is chosen by the student body. Tyler Muessig, of Vineland, New Jersey, is the winner.

The Student Appreciation Award is given to a faculty or staff person for outstanding service to students. The award recipient is Joy Giguere, associate professor of history at Penn State York, of Dallastown, Pennsylvania.

Gary L. Collison Community Service Award winners are Sweeta Rasiyan, of York, Pennsylvania, and Rafeu Syed, of York, Pennsylvania. The service awards are named to honor the late Gary L. Collison, professor of English and American studies at Penn State York, whose idea it was to recognize students for their volunteer service. In addition to community service, recipients must have a minimum of a 2.5 GPA.

The Unsung Hero Award recognizes a Penn State York faculty or staff member for unselfishly providing outstanding service to the campus and its students, often with limited recognition. Selection is made through student, faculty and staff nominations. The recipients are Jeff Barkdoll, athletic director at Penn State York, of York, Pennsylvania; Di Hershey, director of development at Penn State York, of Dillsburg, Pennsylvania; and Jane Pflaum, administrator support coordinator in the chancellor’s office at Penn state York, of York, Pennsylvania.

The Rotary Club Award is presented to a student who has completed a minimum of three semesters with a 3.0 GPA and has made significant service contributions to the campus and/or community while a student at Penn State York. Madison L. Forbes, of Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, is the recipient.

The Student Leadership Award is presented to an organization or club officer based on outstanding leadership within the organization, achievements while in office, and service as a role model and motivating force within the organization. Austin M. Albright, of Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, is the award recipient.

Penn State Alumni Association (PSAA) York County Chapter Award is presented to any Penn State York student who possesses outstanding qualities of scholarship, leadership and service to the campus. Students must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and participate actively in the Blue & White Society and/or Lion Ambassadors. Catie A. Noble, of York, Pennsylvania, is the recipient.